Since the original Madden NFL game came out in 1988, Madden NFL 23 celebrates the franchise’s 34th anniversary. Since then, EA has elevated the Madden NFL franchise to the pinnacle of sports video games, alongside FIFA and NBA 2K. In spite of this, Madden NFL’s reputation has taken a hit due to its yearly releases that don’t offer much in the way of new content, leading fans to ask why they should pay full price once again for essentially the same game every year. Since Madden NFL 23 is the first game in the series to be released after John Madden’s death, EA has gone to great pains to ensure that it does not follow in the footsteps of previous installments.
Even last season’s contest can serve as a cautionary tale for NFL 23. Though it may not have had bad sales, NFL 22 was met with widespread critical disapproval. The game’s new features weren’t particularly innovative, and the gameplay and visual improvements didn’t justify a full price release. This game’s most lauded feature, Homefield Advantage, is a long-established principle in other football games, most notably NCAA, also created and distributed by EA.
To stand out from the rest of the NFL series, NFL 23 needed to introduce a significant change or improvement to the gameplay, and it succeeds in doing so. The new approach and philosophy to gaming that NFL 23 brings are free-form passing, standing tackles, and FieldSENSE. FieldSENSE relies heavily on the thousands of brand-new animations and advances in animation branching technology. FieldSENSE may seem like just another graphical update at first, but the new animations it enables make for a far more engaging, skill-based approach while still retaining the familiar fundamental gameplay features that Madden NFL veterans have come to rely on.
This year’s Madden NFL 23 is bursting with new features thanks to FieldSENSE.
As part of FieldSENSE, Electronic Arts has identified four new core mechanics: Hit Everything, Skill-Based Passing, 360° Cuts, and WR vs. DB Battles. Hit Everything’s defensive improvements are mechanical, giving defenders more ways to disrupt offensive progress during each play. Using the latest animation branching technology, NFL 23 is as realistic as a virtual reality game, allowing players to virtually hit anything in the game. This allows players to break up piles and make contact with airborne receivers on catches. Players might also send extra teammates to assist in a stand-up tackle, which can lead to fumbles and other costly mistakes. Similarly, WR vs. DB Battles offers similar customization choices, but just for WR versus DB matchups. Now that defensive backs may be commanded to more effectively cover wide receivers, Hit Everything gives them even more tools at their disposal with which to foil any attempts at catching the ball. These two changes address a long-running complaint about the Madden NFL series’ defense, which previously felt flat and uninteresting. Defense in NFL 23 is exciting and adaptable for the first time.
NFL 23’s FieldSENSE approach added Skill-Based Passing and 360° Cuts to counteract these defensive nerfs. With the evolution of Skill-Based Passing in NFL 22, quarterbacks now have a new accuracy reticle to help them throw precise throws. This means that unlike in prior Madden NFL games, players have more control over whether or not to throw to open space or through tight gaps. A related mechanic, 360° Cuts, provide a new mechanic using the left trigger button that lets players to more easily adjust their momentum in open spaces, allowing ball carriers to more effectively take advantage of them. Skill-based passing and 360-degree cuts help wide receivers create space during open field sprints in WR vs DB Battles. Players no longer have to rely on scripted running plays, as they did in previous Madden NFL games.
The updated and improved gameplay in Madden NFL 23 is a welcome addition to the series. The way games are played and won is fundamentally altered by FieldSENSE. I’m hoping that EA will keep releasing games with more risk-taking in the future.
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